+
upworthy
Culture

Former Neo-Nazi shop and Klan museum is being transformed into a center for racial harmony

Former Neo-Nazi shop and Klan museum is being transformed into a center for racial harmony

The process of transforming a world where injustice persists into one where justice reigns is a long, slow, multi-faceted one. Much of it is invisible work, and progress is often two steps forward, one step back.

But occasionally, a project comes along that is both a symbolic and practical manifestation of change. The Echo Project in Laurens, South Carolina is one of those projects.

In 1996, the Redneck Shop and "World's Only Klan Museum" was opened in the historic Echo Theater in Laurens. The Echo had been a segregated theater during the Jim Crow era, and the town of Laurens itself was named for a wealthy slave-trader, Henry Laurens, so perhaps that shouldn't be surprising. But still.

With Confederate flags flying and a swastika hanging on the back wall, the Redneck Shop sold racist clothing, bumper stickers, KKK robes, and other paraphernalia to neo-Nazis for years.

In an odd series of events, the ownership of the building changed hands, which changed history. First it went from the former KKK Grand Wizard John Howard (who founded the shop) to his young protege Michael Burden (who lived in the building). During a temporary falling out with Howard and change of heart in 1997, Burden sold the deed to the building to Reverend David Kennedy, a Black civil rights activist whose church helped Burden out.

There was one caveat in the deed transfer—Howard would be allowed to keep running the Redneck Shop in the theater until he died.


Strange arrangement, right? Rev. Kennedy had held protests in front of the shop in the building he owned, but legally he couldn't close it. And this went on for years. In 2006, the theater even hosted the Aryan Nations' World Congress.

Finally, Rev. Kennedy took legal action to oust Howard and his racist shop and museum, and after a 4-year-long lawsuit, was successful. In May 2012, the Redneck Shop closed for good. (Kennedy's story has been turned into a feature film, "Burden," starring Forrest Whittaker, which was released last year.)

Now the theater is being prepped to become a diversity center that will focus on racial harmony and healing, which will also house a museum on racial reconciliation.

Regan Freeman helped co-found the Echo Project with Rev. Kennedy and has raised $300,000 toward the building's renovation. He's in the process of collecting stories of Black residents around Laurens to help build the history of the area, but it was a woman's tweet that led him to a disturbing treasure trove of items that will add something tangible to that history.

According to ABC News, Freeman responded to a tweet from a woman who owns the land that John Howard had lived on. She had bins of items that had belonged to Howard, which she was offering to the Southern Poverty Law Center. After some negotiations, the woman sold them to Freeman. The bins include posters of Hitler, a "Klan Rally Instructions" manual, photo negatives of cross burnings, and offensive caricatures of Black people, and "business cards" KKK members would leave Black families as a form of intimidation. (The cards said that their visit had been a social one, and "don't make the next visit a business call.")

"This stuff isn't from 100 years ago. Some of it is maybe from the last decade or two," Freeman told ABC News. "I think it is important to see it and see how deep this hate goes so you can see why we need to fight so hard to change."

Freeman plans to go through the items with historians from the University of South Carolina to determine which of them should be preserved and which will best inform the storytelling Freeman plans to do at the theater.

Though it's appalling that the theater housed a shrine to hatred a dozen years into the 21st century, the Echo Project offers a ray of hope that transformation is possible.

"We're hoping The Echo Project will become a place where every race could be respected — a place where diversity is not only just talked about, but is celebrated through action," Kennedy told ABC News.

Beatuiful. Can't wait to see it, Reverend Kennedy.


We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."

Keep ReadingShow less
With permission from Sarah Cooper.

Men and the feels.


Note: This an excerpt is from Sarah Cooper's book, How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings.

In this fast-paced business world, female leaders need to make sure they're not perceived as pushy, aggressive, or competent.

One way to do that is to alter your leadership style to account for the fragile male ego.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Man lists 8 not fun, but very important things you need to start doing as an adult.

"Welcome to being an adult. Maybe you weren't told this by your parents, but this is through my trial and error."

@johnfluenzer/TikTok

8 things you should be doing as an adult. Spoiler alert—none of them are fun.

Who among us hasn’t come into full adulthood wishing they had known certain things that could have made life so so so much easier in the long run? Choices that, if made, ultimately would have been much better for our well-being…not to mention our wallets.

But then again that is all part of growing older and (hopefully) wiser. However there is something to be said about getting advice from those who’ve been there, rather than learning the hard way every single time.

Thankfully, a man who goes by @johnfluenzer on TikTok has a great list of things young people should start doing once they become adults. Are any of his suggestions fun, cool or trendy? Not at all. But they are most definitely accurate. Just ask any 30+-year-olds who wished they had done at least four of these things.
Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Her boyfriend asked her to draw a comic about their relationship. Hilarity ensued.

The series combines humor and playful drawings with spot-on depictions of the intense familiarity that long-standing coupledom often brings.

All images by Catana Chetwynd


"It was all his idea."

An offhand suggestion from her boyfriend of two years coupled with her own lifelong love of comic strips like "Calvin and Hobbes" and "Get Fuzzy" gave 22-year-old Catana Chetwynd the push she needed to start drawing an illustrated series about long-term relationships.

Specifically, her own relationship.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

My wife surprised her coworkers when she came out as trans. Then they surprised her.

She was ready for one reaction but was greeted with a beautiful response.

All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

Zoe comes out to her coworkers.


Society, pay attention. This is important.

My wife, Zoe, is transgender. She came out to us — the kids and me — last summer and then slowly spread her beautiful feminine wings with extended family, friends, and neighbors.

A little coming out here, a little coming out there — you know how it is.

Keep ReadingShow less


It started with a simple, sincere question from a mother of an 11-year-old boy.

An anonymous mother posted a question to Quora, a website where people can ask questions and other people can answer them. This mother wrote:

How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won't tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I've already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?

It's a familiar scenario for those of us who have raised kids into the teen years. Our sweet, snuggly little kids turn into moody middle schoolers seemingly overnight, and sometimes we're left reeling trying to figure out how to handle their sensitive-yet-insensitive selves.


Keep ReadingShow less